Cow flatulence is a problem; California and Argentina have solutions

Smog checks are routine in California and help reduce emissions, but a recent bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown is set to regulate, yes, cow flatulence.

- Smog checks are routine in California and help reduce emissions, but a recent bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown is set to regulate, yes, cow flatulence.

California’s approved Senate Bill 1383 looks to reduce short-lived climate pollutants including methane, black carbon, and HFC gases. Although methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is shorter than carbon dioxide, it is more efficient at trapping radiation and has 25 times greater an impact on climate change over a 100-year period.

Of all U.S. methane emissions, 22 percent comes from livestock enteric fermentation, better known as belching and flatulence.

But if we can’t stop the dog from breaking wind during dinner, how can we stop millions of cows from doing what comes natural?

Some farmers are changing the diet of cows from corn-fed to grass-fed and using feed additives such as omega-3 which has seen up to a 30 percent reduction in emissions on some farms.

There is also ongoing research on how to breed less gassy bovines. However, a more drastic solution has been attempted in Argentina. Methane-capturing backpacks attached to cows have been able to extract 300 liters of methane a day -- enough to power a refrigerator.

So the next time you go hiking, take a deep breath, smell the clean air, and be thankful your backpack is attached to your shoulders.

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